Physician, surgeon, scientist, intelligent, eloquent, decisive, courageous, Catalan, caring, modest, generous, hospitable, friendly and, because of the grand old age he reached, also tender and endearing, he always had a smile and a hand to lend to those who asked him. This is how I would define the man I will talk about and who very sadly passed away on December 31st, 2012, at the age of 104, Dr. Moisés Broggi.
Dr. Broggi was born in Barcelona on May 18th, 1908. We might say that during his childhood he already lived with the idea of Catalonia being a country, since this was how he was raised by his family.
He studied medicine at the University of Barcelona, where he graduated, specializing in surgery.
In 1936 during the Spanish Civil War he took the Republican side, joining the medical team of the International Brigades (volunteer military units from all over the world), to fight against fascism in favor of the Republic and against General Franco's military rebels. Ernest Hemingway refers to Dr. Broggi as "the brave little republican doctor" in his novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls”.
During this period he implemented one of the great medical breakthroughs of the war, the mobile operating room.
At the end of the war, while he was working at the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, he founded the Emergency Department, which was the first 24 hour emergency service in Spain.
Despite his remarkable professional career, he was dismissed from all his posts by the Spanish dictatorial regime imposed by coup d'etat leader, General Franco. He was effectively purged and disqualified by a court for any public service.
Moisès Broggi-Vallès continued, however, with his professional tasks in various locations in Barcelona; it is worth noting his task in health assistance, which was active until the 1980's. During his career he was appointed Chairman of the Ethics Committee at the College of Physicians and was a founding member of the International Association of Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a body that won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1985. He also worked on research in surgical anatomy and was one of the promoters of bioethics in Catalonia.
He was awarded several top prizes for his work, such as the Creu de Sant Jordi, the Gold Medal of the city of Barcelona and the Gold Medal of the Catalan government, among others.
He also wrote several books, some autobiographical, such as “Memoirs of a Surgeon” (Memòries d'un cirurgià, 2011) and “Thoughts of a one-hundred-year-old man” (Reflexions d'un vell centenari, 2011). From this biography, we can only come to admire the intellectual capacity of Dr. Broggi.
During the last years of his life he started what we might call his involvement in the struggle for the freedom and independence of Catalonia. During this period, Doctor Broggi was involved in politics, always as a representative of civil society, supporting pro-independence candidates and at the same time running for election himself. He was involved in various social movements, cooperating and actively participating in events and campaigns, always in favor of the Catalan Nation and with the objective of promoting unity, instrumental in achieving independence. This public involvement helped the pro-independence movement reach social sectors that were not usually accessible before.
One of his outstanding features, in my opinion the most important, was his humility, particularly taking into account that he was a celebrity, awarded the country's highest honors; his door was always open to anyone who wanted to talk and share their opinions. He was always willing to support initiatives he believed were useful to move forward and he did not mind going wherever was required to do whatever he could to help and cooperate, despite his age: he was always ready. A man who had spent all his life working for people’s health was now serving his country; he received many visitors –in his office surrounded by books– political, social and cultural representatives, and he would always listen to all of them with great interest. He was not at all fastidious and always let his guests set the pace, but those who knew him well noticed when he heard something he liked and made him stir; despite his age he almost had a childlike smile, a sign of his enthusiasm. At that moment he would show impressive energy to move things forward.
He was not a troublesome man; he was always polite and respectful; he mediated in several occasions between the different Catalan political representatives of pro-independence parties, whose relationships were sometimes tense. I must confess that I was impressed as he set out the points of conflict, which he was perfectly aware of, at these meetings; he was always capable of clearly explaining his position without offending anyone.
I have to say that those who were lucky enough to meet him and work with him have suffered an immense loss and the emptiness he leaves will be irreplaceable.
Dr Broggi supported Ara o Mai